Press Release

Points of View: Is singing reality a dying genre?

3 January 2014

Or perhaps all it needs is a little push to be revived? afaqs! explores.

Years back, taking a cue from the all-pervasive nature of music in this country, the television industry began launching music-based programs. While some simply aired Bollywood songs all the time, channels like Zee TV went the extra mile and created an out and out music-based competition; many still recall the groups 'Deewane', 'Parwane' and 'Mastane' on Zee TV's popular show, Antakshari.

Music took another leap in the Hindi general entertainment space when Zee TV launched a singing-based talent hunt show in 1995. In 1996, Doordarshan followed suit with Meri Awaaz Suno, a show that helped Bollywood playback singer Sunidhi Chauhan get discovered.

Different versions of Sa Re Ga Ma Pa went on for years and in 2004, Sony Entertainment Television launched Indian Idol, an adaptation of American Idol. The show is believed to have revitalised the genre. Then came a flurry of singing reality shows such as Star Voice of India (Star Plus), Jo Jeeta Vahi Superstar (Star Plus) Chote Ustaad (Star Plus), X Factor (Sony) and Sur-Kshetra (Colors and Sahara One).

However, over the past few years, the popularity of singing reality began falling. Today, Star Plus appears to have done away with singing reality shows. Zee TV launched Sa Re Ga Ma Pa in 2012 but this edition failed to fetch great numbers. Colors simulcast Sahara One's Sur-Kshetra; alas, it bombed. Well, Sony did launch Indian Idol Junior in 2013, which kind of revived the property given that it had not worked well in the previous season.

In the meanwhile, dance reality shows have captured the Hindi GEC space; most channels have their own show, say, Jhalak Dikhhla Jaa (first on Sony and then Colors), Nach Baliye (Star Plus) and Dance India Dance (Zee TV), India's Dancing Superstar (first season in 2013 on Star Plus), and Boogie Woogie (comeback after four years on Sony).

So, has the genre called 'singing reality' reached the beginning of its end? Or does it just need a little nudge? As one of our respondents points out: doing away with the genre altogether, in a country like ours where music dominates every waking moment (whether it is bhajan, bhakti sangeet, region specific music or film music) is like failing to recognise an opportunity to reinvent. Excerpts.

Anupama Mandloi, MD, Fremantlemedia, India

The music reality genre is not dying, but there is fatigue from repetition. Non-fiction properties, especially music, are the most difficult to reinvent from season to season. Dance and variety entertainment have the luxury of breath-taking visual representation. Visually, music is less dynamic. Given the current environment of celebrity-led/celebrity-dependent shows, as well as the heightened decibel level of entertainment, this is a challenge. The challenge is also to build interactivity with the audience so that they make 'an appointment' with the show.

A music show today needs innovation. This can aid the resurgence of this fatigued genre. The problem with any non-fiction property is that there is far less patience with failure given the budgets and the duration it occupies on air, vis-a-vis a long running fiction property. It gets written off immediately. Turning it around becomes increasingly difficult. We have faced this with one of our most successful global properties (X Factor) that failed to make a mark in India in its first season. The show had a poor start in Australia as well (season one, 2005), but when it came back in 2010 on another network, it was a resounding success. It is all about reinvention.

Ajay Bhalwankar, head-content, Hindi GECs, Zee Entertainment Enterprises

I don't think singing reality is dying as a genre, but yes, the response to it has definitely declined. It's not that people don't want to see these shows, but as content creators, we have not been able to create a singing reality show that large masses can get hooked to. The last season of Sa Re Ga Ma Pa did well in certain segments and was well received on YouTube. Our belief in the property is strong and we are bringing it back soon. The passion for music is always there. The differentiation factor is necessary.

Ashish Golwalkar, non-fiction programming head, Star Plus

There are multiple reasons a genre doesn't work. Today dance reality is very popular; few years back singing reality was more popular. Also, notice how singing reality shows have started over-lapping. The differentiation between shows has started blurring. Many shows have worked on the numbers front but not perception-wise, and vice-versa.

One of the main reasons why the singing reality genre is not working today is: the youth have lost interest. Smartphone penetration has made songs/videos available on-the-go; why will someone switch to a show with unknown people singing? For singing reality to work now, one will have to come up with an original idea that will revitalise the genre.

Aloka Guha, non-fiction programming head, Sony Entertainment Television

The singing reality genre is not dying but yes, one needs to constantly keep reinventing the format. One of the key learnings from this season of Indian Idol has been: talent is key; as broadcasters, producers and judges, we need to find the best talent from all over the country. Also, simplicity is important; the format of the show need not be complicated - a reason why X Factor didn't do very well. Changing judges and having a panel of distinct personalities also helps. One can also get creative with the script and the hosts.

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